ANNA Member Spotlight

Welcome to ANNA's monthly member spotlight. ANNA is a vibrant organization because of nurses like you! Your diverse experiences and unique perspectives make us a collective whole that is a masterpiece. We are proud of the work each of you do!

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Louise Elpers, MSN, RN, CNNe

Haubstadt, IN
St. Louis Chapter #307

How long have you been a nurse?

Nephrology nursing has been my only working position as an RN for 38 years.

What is unique about nephrology nursing?

In a word, nephrology nursing is “history” because it continues to unfold. I entered nephrology in 1974 as a nursing assistant. The first dialysis unit in our area was opened in 1976. Patients needing dialysis had to go to Indianapolis for care or to have an access declotted. Nephrology nursing was unique at that time because it was so new. It was like working in a living historical experience as new drugs were discovered; new renal replacement therapies became available, like transplantation; newer, better dialysis machines and dialyzers hit the market – all the while knowing that the political powers of 1972 had secured funding for end-stage renal disease care.

In the early 1980s, patients newly diagnosed with kidney disease were almost always dialyzed with a shunt. When the shunt clotted, it was declotted at the bedside. The tubing had to be wrapped carefully so it would not get pulled apart, kink, and clot. Yes, I'm telling my age here. I recently turned 70 years old. Various types of dialysis accesses, needle styles, and government regulations were introduced. The introduction of bicarbonate dialysate relieved the nausea and vomiting almost every patient experienced during dialysis. Erythropoietin came out in 1988. Anemia management continues to challenge and evolve.

Over the years, I have worked in many capacities. My once small independent unit is now part of a large dialysis organization. I was asked to open a De Novo Unit and see it through the certification process. That was a unique opportunity. I retired shortly after that. I can think of no other nursing discipline besides nephrology nursing that uses every bit of nursing education. Pharmacology, psychology, pediatrics, gerontology, mathematics, and nutrition round out the nursing education necessary to treat those in our care.

What do you value most about your ANNA membership?

ANNA membership is a professional connection to colleagues beyond the walls of one's institution. If there are questions, there must be answers. Someone out there just might have answers you have not found in your unit. Professional connections can be a springboard to research, provide a contact to fulfill one's interest in writing, or a means to personal and professional growth. Being an ANNA member offers recognition for one's pursuit of excellence, and an opportunity to share information on a national scale at symposia or in writing. In 1988, it provided me an opportunity to participate with other nephrology nurses as a Citizen Ambassador to China with the People-to-People Program. Opportunities within ANNA are endless. I am forever grateful for the professional support of so many ANNA members in my life!

What would you tell a newly practicing nurse about nephrology nursing?

Patients with kidney disease represent every face of humanity: those living on the street; those ravaged by alcohol, drugs, and disease; the rich and famous; the housewife; the parish priest; the farmer whose tractor pinned him and now hopes to recover from the consequences of acute renal failure; the mentally ill; the family member of a foreign company CEO needing transient dialysis; and on and on. I consider myself so fortunate to have been welcomed into these peoples' lives as their caregiver. Patients have given me lessons on acceptance of life as it happens, patience to accept what I would find difficult if I were the patient, and a mindset that focuses on dialysis as a treatment, rather than a race just to get patients on and off a machine. Nephrology nursing allows us a unique opportunity to serve, care for, and enhance the lives of patients.

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